Derek J, ATL based celebrity stylist and TV personality, put a well-clad foot in his mouth on the recently aired ‘good hair’ episode of Dr. Drew’s Life Changers. Shortly thereafter, distressed, confused and seeking clarity, he shined the proverbial CN Signal into the night sky asking for deliverance from the incessant stream of hate mail. #TeamNatural roll deep as a mug.
Appreciative of his willingness to keep it real and genuine desire to be educated on the matter, I gave Derek some dedicated time On the Couch to gain some insight. Will he get his redemption? Read on!
CN: Okay, so what happened?
DJ: First of all, I didn’t think that that statement would’ve caused what it caused. The conversation with Dr. Drew was about natural hair versus relaxed hair and weaves. In the beginning of the interview, I encouraged my client to go natural because I know that many women don’t know what their natural hair looks like. But later during the conversation, I did make the statement that some women need relaxers.
CN: What the hell Derek J?!
DJ: I didn’t mean relaxed bone straight… I meant to calm down frizz.
CN: Right… you know this is not helping your case…
DJ: Some people may want a looser curl or things of that nature. You would need some kind of chemical assistance to work that look.
CN: Uh… no boo boo. We have tons, TONS of options outside of chemicals. But put a pin in that. Do you think that most women desire looser curls?
DJ: Yes, not most women, but some do. I’ve seen women that want to go natural but turn to weaves first to get the look they’re going for. They say, ‘oh my hair’s too short to wear natural’, or ‘it’s too this or that to wear natural’. So they get a weave to get that natural look that they want to have. If that’s the look you’re going for and your hair doesn’t do that, then chemicals or a weave is needed to make it happen.
CN: So you’re saying there ain’t enough curly pudding in the world?
CN: And what is ‘that look’? ‘The Joan Clayton’?
DJ: Yep. Exactly. Some women need a relaxer or chemical assistance to achieve that look.
CN: That look… are we talking, ‘easily managed hair’, or the taboo, ‘good hair’?
DJ: No [Laughter]. Good hair is basically what you think it is and what you’re trying to go for.
CN: That’s so P.C.!
DJ: [Laughter] Before I answer that question, I want to say that I also didn’t know that the word ‘manageable’ is a bad word in the natural hair community. I don’t know all this stuff! [Laughter] I’m learning though. Anyway, good hair is what works for you. What’s good for me might not be what’s good for you. It’s frustrating because this shouldn’t even be the topic of conversation. We have a whole lot of other issues for Black folks to worry about instead of whether someone wants to relax their hair or not. Or if somebody wants to achieve a looser texture curl than what they have naturally.
God gave you natural hair, but if you want to go that hard on it, then it shouldn’t just stop at your hair. Don’t get your eye brows arched, stop shaving your legs, stop shaving under your arms, don’t wear a bra… If you want to accept what God gave you, do it then, but you can’t just stop at your head.
CN: Would you have seen anything wrong with what you said had it not been brought to your attention… repeatedly?
DJ: I didn’t think twice. When I spoke to other stylists and a few natural haired friends, they agreed, so I didn’t think that there was anything wrong with the statement. I didn’t say all women, I said some. They took it as if I’d said it’s all women and that I look down on natural hair and that’s not what I was saying.
CN: How many hateful emails did you get?
CN: Got damn.
DJ: I’m so frustrated. I can understand people having their comments and disagreeing with what I have to say, but y’all are horrible! Now I’m a coon, I’m ignorant, I’m stupid… how did all of this come from that?! I mean, wow. Y’all are going hard! The emails have been worse than comments on the gossip blogs. It’s terrible. I didn’t mean any harm.
CN: Can you see though how some would take that comment to mean that the hair that grows out of our scalps naturally is not good enough?
DJ: Yes, I do see that. It’s only black people that have this issue though. You don’t see white women walking around with their ‘natural hair cause’. They get color, they get perms to enhance their curls… you don’t see other cultures when after altering their hair texture, have a come to Jesus moment… they don’t have this natural hair revelation. We go so hard on it and that’s where I get lost.
When I talk to natural hair advocates, it’s never middle ground… it’s ‘our way or no way’. And there’s also the belief that if a woman get’s a relaxer or gets a weave, then she’s less of a Black woman. Those things are just harsh and just one sided. It’s not cool. People have choices… and if you want to put a relaxer in, that makes you no less Black than the next.
CN: On that much, we agree. And I want to note that the typical CurlyNikki reader is not the militant natural you speak of. We are inclusive and non-judgmental. ‘Do you boo boo’ is our motto. My concern about what you said, whether you used ‘some’ or ‘all’, is the sentiment that our hair needs to be managed and smoothed to be attractive or to get the desired results. This assumes that we all want the same ‘desired result’ and it suggests that some textures aren’t acceptable.
Do you work with natural hair?
DJ: Um, yes. My thought behind it is, people say ‘relaxers damage the hair’, no, the person that applied the relaxer damaged the hair. People are not well versed in the use of chemicals and people automatically assume that hair can’t be healthy with a relaxer. But if you’re natural and you come into a salon and get it pressed every week, that’s no better. If that’s the case, you should just get a relaxer so you don’t have that constant heat.
CN: Is natural hair great hair or the greatest?
DJ: The greatest.
CN: Good answer. You didn’t say, how many natural clients do you have?
DJ: The majority of my clients are natural. But they’re natural underneath the weave.
CN: That so doesn’t count! How many twist-outs have you done? How many fros have you shaped?
DJ: No, no, no. I don’t do no natural hair styles. All my natural clients are either getting their hair pressed or getting a weave.
CN: Are you familiar with the natural hair community online? Do you watch Youtube videos?
DJ: No, not really.
CN: Okay, so here’s the thing. I appreciate your honesty and willingness to have this discussion. There are a ton of talented stylists that have no clue what to do with natural hair, and unfortunately, you’re among the ranks. As the king of fantasy hair, you’ve got some catching up to do in this natural hair game.
How would you feel about doing some homework?
DJ: Well, what do you have in mind?
CN: Your homework is to watch an hour of Youtube videos a week, specifically the channels of Chary Jay, Naptural85, and Naturalnessdotcom, as well as peruse the CurlyNikki.com archives and forum. Get real familiar.
You will not only become a natural hair advocate, but develop proficiencies in helping women transition from relaxed to natural, and styling natural hair… not just in weaves. You will report back to the CN community with all you’ve learned culminating in the styling of my intern, friend and fellow blogger Taneica of GlassDolls… on camera. It is only at this time that you get your redemption and earn your #teamnatural card.
Also, tell him why you don’t need a relaxer!